Jesus said to them, 'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.' For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat." - Mark 6:31
I have several friends who mark the anniversary of their birth by…setting aside a whole month.
I have generally found this practice to be a bit: excessive.
Until a coworker shared her traditions for her birth month.
You see, when her mother had a severe stroke, everything changed in their lives. In her early twenties, she became her mom's primary round-the-clock caretaker. There was no such thing as respite because her mom needed her. Their existence was survival. Making a living just added to her commitments.
But when she was a little girl, back when her mom was healthy and herself, her mother made a big deal of her birthday. She would think of different ways to incorporate her child's favorite activities into a series of events that couldn't be contained in a single day. Her mom, a busy woman working overtime, driving enormous buses through the crowded streets of New York City, would set aside this time as special. A month could barely contain the excitement and love she wanted to demonstrate.
And on the actual day? The day that her daughter was born? She'd wake her child up at midnight with a cupcake and a candle and say something like:
"It's your birthday now. I'm so happy you were born."
To this day, her mom has kept up this tradition. Sure, her daughter has to buy the cupcake and candle and leave it somewhere her mom can reach it. Yes, that series of phrases is too much for her mom to say out loud.
But setting aside this time of sabbath and gratitude is holy to them and nothing, not even a stroke, can get in their way.
The world doesn't always allow working people much time to breathe, relax, recharge. But for so many, with careful planning and the values that seize the time, a birthday becomes the one place that allows for celebration and rest.
It's my birthday. After working entirely too hard, I'm trying to learn from them…and from Jesus, who would work hard again on the shore, but gave them rest on the ride over.
Thank you, God, for my birth, for my opportunities to rest, for the love, for celebration. Please give me a chance to come away with you from time to time. Amen.
Kaji Douša is the Senior Pastor of The Park Avenue Christian Church, a congregation of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ, in New York City.